The Rat
Saturday, December 31, 2005
      ( 11:28 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY CAN'T HELP THINKING much of the advice in this article could also be very useful to women trying to understand their men...

I took notes, asked questions, then called a canine behaviorist at Cornell and explained the problem in as much detail as I could.

"Everybody says the dog was reacting to her going back to work," I suggested.

"Everybody is probably wrong," was his blunt comeback. "It's 'theory of mind.' This is what often happens when humans assume that dogs think the way we do."

His analysis: "Being angry at the human and behaving punitively—that's not a thought sequence even remotely possible, given a dog's brain. The likely scenario is that the dog is simply frightened." When Heather was home, she was there to explain and enforce the rules. With her gone, the dog literally didn't know how to behave. The dog should have been acclimated to a crate or room and confined more, not less, until she got used to her new independence.

Lots of dogs get nervous when they don't know what's expected of them, and when they get anxious, they can also grow restless. Blue hadn't had to occupy time alone before. Dogs can get unnerved by this. They bark, chew, scratch, destroy. Getting yelled at and punished later doesn't help: The dog probably knows it's doing something wrong, but it has no idea what. Since there's nobody around to correct behaviors when the dog is alone, how could the dog know which behavior is the problem? Which action was wrong?

He made sense to me. Dogs are not aware of time, even as a concept, so Blue couldn't know whether she was being left for five minutes or five hours, or how that compared to being left for a movie two weeks earlier...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 PM

Thursday, December 29, 2005
      ( 7:38 PM ) The Rat  

The sorority, based in Alexandria, Virginia, mixes Greek accessories with its Islamic values. It has a secret ceremony and a special handshake, even tank tops, tote bags and printed coffee mugs. It also has interest from schools in 16 states.

Gamma Gamma Chi arrived at the University of Kentucky with a formal presentation for about a dozen girls.

"Maybe this will kill the stereotype of sororities—partying, drinking, you know," says Kentucky freshman Naema Shalash. "It sounds pretty interesting."

But Gamma Gamma Chi does plan to party, in its own way. No men and no alcohol allowed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:38 PM

      ( 6:29 PM ) The Rat  
If I think back nowadays to our childhood in Steinach (Luisa's memoirs continue at another point), it often seems as if it had been open-ended in time, in every direction—indeed, as if it were still going on, right into these lines I am now writing...
The Emigrants

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:29 PM

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
      ( 3:04 PM ) The Rat  
It was not until the early summer of 1984 that I finally went to Ithaca, having meanwhile taken great pains to decipher Uncle Adelwarth's travel notes of 1913 and having concluded that, if I intended to go to Ithaca, I ought not to defer it any longer. So I flew once more to New York and drove northwest along Highway 17 the same day, in a hired car, past various sprawling townships which, though some of their names were familiar, all seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Monroe, Monticello, Middletown, Wurtsboro, Wawarsing, Colchester and Cadosia, Deposit, Delhi, Neversink and Niniveh—I felt as if I and the car I sat in were being guided by remote control through an outsize toyland where the place names had been picked at random by some invisible giant child, from the ruins of another world long since abandoned...
The Emigrants

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:04 PM

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
      ( 8:14 PM ) The Rat  
Le pauvre Paul, said Mme Landau, lost in thought, and then, looking across at me once more, observed that in her long life she had known quite a number of men—closely, she emphasized, a mocking expression on her face—all of whom, in one way or another, had been enamoured of themselves.
The Emigrants

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 PM

Friday, December 23, 2005
      ( 5:40 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:40 PM

      ( 5:30 PM ) The Rat  
Where the state looms large in everyone's life, a degree of corruption exerts a beneficial effect upon the character of the people... The need to evade the depredations of the state and to make alternative arrangements for functions (like social security) that the state claimed, but usually failed, to carry out meant that the Italian population had to fend for itself. With governments that fell like skittles—and quite long periods without any government at all—no Italian could possibly imagine that the politicians or the state they governed held the key to their prosperity. Necessity in Italy was not so much the mother of invention as of economic flexibility, opportunism (in the best sense), and family solidarity. Not coincidentally, the Italian divorce and illegitimacy rates are a sixth of the British—a product not only of Italy's Catholicism.

In Britain, by contrast, the financial probity of the public administration, a legacy of the Victorian era (in which the state hardly impinged on the lives of individuals at all), misled the people into a fatal misapprehension. They supposed that, because no public official ever asked for or expected a bribe, or could be easily swayed by other forms of illicit influence, public officials actually worked both for the public good and the good of individuals. People therefore came to believe in the beneficence, or at least the benevolent neutrality, of the state. Its officials were honest and fair, and therefore it was good.

I see the deleterious consequences of this mistaken belief in many of my patients. They often devote their lives to trying to extract what they believe is their due from the authorities, whose failure to provide it is to them inexplicable, since no one appears personally to benefit from it. If only someone in the administration would say to them, "Give me £100 and I'll do it," all would make sense to them: but no one ever does. The illusion thus persists, sometimes for years, that the authorities are genuinely looking into it. The British national pastime is Waiting for Godot.

—Theodore Dalrymple, "The Uses of Corruption"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:30 PM

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
      ( 2:16 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:16 PM

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
      ( 6:40 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:40 PM

      ( 9:33 AM ) The Rat  
SANTAS GO ON RAMPAGE IN NEW ZEALAND CITY. Almost makes up for the so-called holiday season. Thanks to ET for the link.

A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus costumes, many of them drunk, rampaged through New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores and assaulting security guards, police said Sunday.

The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy" by local newspapers, began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an Auckland overpass, said Auckland Central Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty. She said the men then rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage containers, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on buildings.

One man climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship before being ordered down by the captain. Other Santas, objecting when the man was arrested, attacked security staff, Hegarty said. The remaining Santas entered a downtown convenience store and carried off beer and soft drinks.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," store owner Changa Manakynda said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:33 AM

      ( 9:28 AM ) The Rat  
Those who live lives of immediate gratification, Huxley thought, would not be able to bear solitude of any kind. As Mustapha Mond explains, 'people are never alone now. We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it's almost impossible for them to ever have it.' A life devoted to instant gratification produces permanent infantilization: 'at sixty four... tastes are what they were at seventeen.' In our society, the telescoping of the generations is already happening: the knowledge, tastes, and social accomplishments of thirteen-year-olds are often the same as those of twenty-eight-year-olds. Adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent.

—Theodore Dalrymple, "The Dystopian Imagination"

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 AM

Sunday, December 18, 2005
      ( 9:23 PM ) The Rat  
LIST OF NOTED POLYGLOTS. Because we all need people to hate.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:23 PM

      ( 9:49 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:49 AM

      ( 6:00 AM ) The Rat  
It was a peculiar courtship. They never had a normal Saturday night date like other couples because that was Herb’s big work night. They never went dancing; it would have been a busman’s holiday for him, and Mama hated to dance. The one baseball game they attended produced a conversation that anticipated Abbott and Costello by ten years, and the bassoon concert left Mama with permanent psychological scars. Herb drank but he didn’t smoke; Mama smoked but she didn’t drink, so they could not enjoy Repeal. Both liked to take drives in the country but he wouldn’t go over thirty and she wouldn’t go under sixty, so they could not occupy the same car without giving each other nervous prostration. There was nothing to do except keep on eating dinner, so that’s what they did.

What they talked about over their dinner dates is unimaginable because they had absolutely nothing in common. Both had left school at fifteen but Mama quit because she hated school, while Herb’s termination was decided for him by the rigid caste system of Edwardian England. Mama never read a book; Herb was a compulsive reader who had educated himself with a library card. Mama hated to be alone; Herb had so many inner resources he could have committed folie à deux all by himself...

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:00 AM

Saturday, December 17, 2005
      ( 6:52 PM ) The Rat  
AND MEANWHILE... an article on the physics of bras.

To best support breasts, a designer has to understand how they move. To that end, McGhee's team in Australia, headed by biomechanist Julie Steele, tags women with light-emitting diodes and asks them to run on treadmills. (The women run with and without bras, so the laboratory doors are bolted to prevent uninvited people from bursting in.) Computer systems then track the breasts' motions in three dimensions by following the moving lights. "We can actually work out exactly where they're going, how they're moving, and how this movement is affected by bras," Steele says. Breasts move in a sinusoidal pattern, Steele has found, and they move a lot. Small breasts can move more than three inches vertically during a jog, and large breasts sometimes leave their bras entirely...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:52 PM

      ( 2:33 PM ) The Rat  
DISSIDENT JOURNALIST LIU BINYAN died earlier this month. His memoir is worth a look.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:33 PM

      ( 12:16 PM ) The Rat  

An anonymous gift-giver left a $15,000 diamond engagement ring to the owner of an unlocked car in western Massachusetts, with a typed note hinting at a broken heart.

"Merry Christmas. Thank you for leaving your car door unlocked. Instead of stealing your car I gave you a present. Hopefully this will land in the hands of someone you love, for my love is gone now. Merry Christmas to you," the note said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:16 PM

      ( 12:08 PM ) The Rat  
GRAD SCHOOL ISOLATING, GSG SAYS. Unintentionally hilarious.

Hinkson—who, along with Lin, two other graduate students and two administrators, comprised the University's delegation to the summit—said undergraduates' attitudes toward graduate students were particularly troubling.

"There is a real perception of having second-class citizen status," she said, noting this may not be as true for grad students in science and engineering. "When there were discussions and focus groups about the four-year residential colleges with undergraduates at Wilson College and undergraduates were asked about the role of grad students, the two words they used most often to describe them were 'sketchy' and 'weird.'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 PM

Friday, December 16, 2005
      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  
"DRINKING ALONE IS A TELLTALE SIGN THAT YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO PUT UP WITH ANYBODY'S BULLSHIT." From the Onion archives, called to mind by the enormous bottle Ratty is befriending this evening.

Why yes, today was the last day of classes (for 2005, anyway), why do you ask?

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 PM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
He watched little brisk figures, figures whose movement was as the tick of the great Paris clock, take their smooth diagonal from point to point; the air had a taste as of something mixed with art, something that presented nature as a white-capped master-chef...
The Ambassadors

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Thursday, December 15, 2005
      ( 9:34 AM ) The Rat  

In an age when many search for sex on the Internet, Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday unveiled a controversial tool to fight the spread of HIV and other diseases: a website that helps send anonymous e-mail warning people that they might be infected.

Through the website,, users can send a free, unsigned electronic postcard with a standard message or a personal note, thus avoiding an awkward conversation that many people would rather not have. The idea is to help people be more forthcoming with sexual partners so those at risk of sexually transmitted diseases get tested and practice safer sex.

The website, which anyone can use but is primarily aimed at people who seek casual sex online, is part of a broader national campaign. San Francisco launched a website in October 2004 that covered other infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, which has generated about 20,000 e-mails. Only this month did it include HIV. Seattle, Philadelphia and Indiana are planning to launch inSPOT sites next year...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:34 AM

      ( 6:53 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY WAS JAMES BOND on the Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0 quiz. Gee, never saw that one coming. Link via Zorak.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:53 AM

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
      ( 2:54 PM ) The Rat  
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

—Stevie Smith

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:54 PM

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
      ( 8:25 PM ) The Rat  
YOU KNOW YOU NEED a safe for your cheese. (Well, you do if I'm going to be around.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:25 PM

      ( 11:47 AM ) The Rat  
COURT PARDONS SMITTEN BRA BURGLAR. Why can't I have burglars like this? Link via IKM.

[T]he court in Harbin, capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province, dismissed harassment charges against the burglar. It heard that on the times he entered the woman's apartment while she was out, he had washed her dishes, done her laundry, left her snacks and even fixed her computer.

"(The man) said he loved her secretly, but couldn't muster up enough courage to speak to her. He placed a bet with his roommate that he would win her heart," Xinhua said, citing a report in the Shenzhen Daily. It did not say when the charges were dismissed...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:47 AM

Monday, December 12, 2005
      ( 8:16 AM ) The Rat  

Nasab's case has ignited fierce debate over free speech in a country that has been rapidly modernizing since the end of Taliban rule four years ago, and yet remains deeply rooted in traditional Islamic culture and extremely sensitive about issues of religion and the role of women.

His offense, according to the Afghan courts and conservative clerics, was to contravene the teachings of Islam by printing essays in his monthly magazine, Women's Rights, that questioned legal discrimination against women, harsh physical punishments for criminals and rigid intolerance of Muslims who abandon their faith.

The essays, published in May, attracted the belated attention of a prominent Muslim cleric, who delivered a sermon several months later denouncing Nasab as an infidel. Nasab reported the incident to Afghanistan's justice system, but instead of receiving the protection he had expected, he was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to two years in prison. Nasab, 47, has appealed to a higher court, but so have the prosecutors. They contend the two-year sentence was far too lenient, and that unless he apologizes, he should hang...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 AM

      ( 8:01 AM ) The Rat  

While we're on the subject (though TCB probably will not be able to return in time for Christmas itself), Ratty might mention that she always thought the song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to be just another bit of cloyingly sweet seasonal muzak. It was only last December, a few weeks after TCB originally deployed—and 61 years after the song was first recorded—that she happened to hear the last line. Fortunately, the Rat did not actually start crying in public. That would have been pussy.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams...

Meanwhile, here is some trivia about the history of the song.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:01 AM

Sunday, December 11, 2005
      ( 8:08 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:08 PM

Saturday, December 10, 2005
      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  

The 92-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, headed by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), wants to attach an amendment revoking birthright citizenship to a broader immigration bill scheduled to be taken up sometime next week. Although several revocation bills have been introduced in the House, the most likely one to move forward would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens.

There is no official tally of the number of children born to illegal immigrants; unofficial estimates range from 100,000 to 350,000 a year. Smith and other critics of current immigration law say that 1 in 10 U.S. births—and 1 in 5 births in California—are to women who have entered the country illegally.

Upon reaching the age of 18, a U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants can petition to obtain permanent legal residency for his or her parents and siblings. Although it generally takes years for such requests to be approved or rejected, parents who receive visas then can begin the process of applying for full citizenship.

Because of the length of time involved, some immigration experts say that birthright citizenship is not a major incentive for the vast majority of illegal entrants.

"No, absolutely not," said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's something that a few middle-class professional people do. I have never met a poor person who has his wife walk across the desert at eight months pregnant so they can wait 21 years to be sponsored by their child." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 PM

Friday, December 09, 2005
      ( 12:03 AM ) The Rat  
I do not have to claim that everything is possible in every period in order to plead this much for universities: that while they may suffer every failing of the institutions of which they partake, they are unique among institutions in preserving the thought that nothing is the only game in town, or that if something is, then there are habitations outside the town where it is not.
—Stanley Cavell in Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 AM

Thursday, December 08, 2005
      ( 5:26 PM ) The Rat  
MAKERS OF 'GEISHA' DEFEND CASTING. Dude, if the Japanese want more of "their own" actresses chosen for big Hollywood roles, they should start producing some real hotties like my people do. Thanks to IKM for the link.

The English-language film is set in Japan and adapted from the American novel. It stars Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li, and Chinese-Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh. They join several Japanese performers, including Ken Watanabe.

For months, the Internet has been filled with vitriolic debate over cultural insensitivity, and Zhang has been denounced in China for her starring role. The arguments boil down to this: A movie about Japanese culture should have a Japanese actress in the lead...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:26 PM

      ( 2:02 AM ) The Rat  
PARENT-PROOFING THE APARTMENT. The 'rents get here in about 12 hours, so Ratty has been hard at work ridding the premises of all material that it could possibly be distressing for them to find—handcuffs, illegitimate children, dust, etc. Child-proofing a place has gotta be a breeze compared to this...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:02 AM

      ( 1:54 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY SCORED AS "ANDROGYNOUS" (73 masculinity, 63 femininity) on the Bem Sex Role Inventory Test. I credit (or blame) the early influence of my mother and brothers, all very strong personalities and all very, uh, gendered.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:54 AM

      ( 12:51 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 AM

      ( 12:50 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:50 AM

      ( 12:37 AM ) The Rat  
He thought about himself, and the whole earth,
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;
And then he thought of Donna Julia's eyes...
Don Juan

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:37 AM

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
      ( 10:22 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:22 PM

      ( 1:51 AM ) The Rat  

In a twist that might make its round-headed hero exclaim, "Good grief," Charles M. Schulz's "A Charlie Brown Christmas"—the animated television special about love conquering materialism that airs Tuesday on ABC—now fuels a $1.2 billion a year global publishing, merchandising and marketing machine.

Millions of Americans will tune in Tuesday, as they have every December for 40 years, to watch Charlie Brown and his gang learn that friendship and faith are more important than presents. But this year, as every year, advertisers clamored to buy time during the cartoon to hype their holiday movies and toys. So many advertisers, in fact, that ABC had to turn some away.

"They chase us for this show," said Geri Wang, ABC's senior vice president for prime-time sales. "It provides a safe, warm and family-feel-good message."

Those who got into the coveted program paid as much as $200,000 for each 30-second spot, which is more than advertisers have paid for such hot new hits as ABC's "Commander in Chief"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:51 AM

Sunday, December 04, 2005
      ( 7:43 PM ) The Rat  
"Sometimes I think my soul is full of weeds!"
The Complete Peanuts, 1957-1958

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:43 PM

A page I'm starting to get the overlords at to stop $#@! bugging me

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